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MSO salutes the 4th at Antietam

Thousands expected for MSO's annual Salute to Independence

Thousands expected for MSO's annual Salute to Independence

July 02, 2009|By KATE COLEMAN

The 24th annual Salute to Independence at Antietam National Battlefield is scheduled for Saturday, the Fourth of July. The celebration will mark America's 233rd birthday with music and fireworks.

Organizers are expecting the usual 30,000 to 35,000 guests, but one visitor who showed up in 2008 is not welcome: A spectacular thunderstorm and downpour arrived to curtail the program and drench the crowd.

It was the first time in the event's 23-year history that rain changed everyone's plans. The concert was shortened. All was not lost, however.

"We were able to get the '1812 Overture' in and the fireworks in, and literally, when the fireworks ended, it started to rain," said Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent John Howard.


The evening will mark the start of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's 28th season. MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze will begin her 11th season with the orchestra. She said she is looking forward to presenting two compositions rained out of last year's program.

"Soul's Journey" by Rob Hovermale, Washington County Public Schools' supervisor for visual and performing arts, was originally written for WCPS's All County Orchestra, which Schulze conducts every year.

"The audience and students loved it, and I wanted to be able to bring the piece to an even greater portion of our community -- and beyond -- at our Salute concert," Schulze said.

Last year's deluge also postponed the world premiere of "Ghosts of Antietam," a work composed by Joseph McIntyre, MSO's principal timpanist, who has performed at the battlefield concerts many times and has said he always gets a powerful sense that the place is sacred, hallowed ground.

"Joe's work incorporates Civil War tunes into a beautiful and haunting memorial to those who fought and died at Antietam," Schulze said. "It is a fitting salute to the place and the moment."

Before the concert, a bit of more recent history will be commemorated. There will be a flyover by vintage aircraft from the Hagers-town Aviation Museum, said Tom Riford, president and CEO of the Hagers-town-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. A former Marine, Riford will serve as master of ceremonies for Salute to Independence.

Tracey Potter, vice president of the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, said he wasn't sure which planes will participate in the flyover, but the majority will be Hagerstown-produced Fairchild aircraft. He will be a passenger in one of two PT-19s -- two-passenger, open cockpit, training aircraft produced in Hagerstown.

In nearly a quarter of a century, Salute to Independence has become a patriotic tradition in Washington County. Weather permitting, the event will conclude with Tchaikovsky's rousing "1812 Overture" with live-cannon accompaniment provided by the Maryland National Guard and a summer night sky exploding with fireworks.

Howard said he's been asked how such an event could take place on a battlefield.

"What better place to have a salute to freedom than on a battlefield?" he asked and answered, "I can't think of a better spot."

If you go ...

WHAT: 24th annual Salute to Independence with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 4; fireworks will begin about 9:45 p.m.

WHERE: Antietam National Battlefield north of Sharpsburg

COST: There is no admission fee to the park, but donations will be accepted and go toward next year's Salute.

CONTACT: For information, go to or

MORE: Parking is available in the park, and additional parking can be found along Md. 65 and Md. 34, which border the park. County Commuter will provide shuttle-bus service from 3 to 11:30 p.m. from Md. 34 to the concert grounds; cost is $2 roundtrip for ages 5 and older.

Wear comfortable shoes, bring a blanket, plenty of water or soft drinks, and a flashlight. Food and drinks will be sold.

Tarps or reserved areas per group are to be no larger than 10 feet by 10 feet.

Tarps cannot be placed before 6 a.m. Saturday. Tarps placed earlier than this will be removed.

Tarps not occupied by 7 p.m. Saturday will be removed.

No grills, no pets and no soliciting. Canopies and beach umbrellas are permitted but must be taken down before the concert.

Expect a minimum of a 60- to 90-minute traffic delay when leaving the event.

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